Saturday, February 9, 2019


I just read Louisiana's Way Home, and it was sooo good!

Louisiana's Way Home by Kate DiCamillo
Candlewick Press
pub date: October 2, 2018

But of course it was, right? Kate DiCamillo is such an amazing writer, I think she might be magical.

Here's the novel's flap copy:
When Louisiana Elefante's granny wakes her up in the middle of the night to tell her that the day of reckoning has arrived and they have to leave home immediately, Louisiana figures that it is only a matter of time before Granny changes her mind and they come back home. After all, Granny has many middle-of-the-night ideas. But this time, things are different. This time, Granny intends for them never to return.

Separated from her best friends, Raymie and Beverly, Louisiana struggles to oppose the winds of fate (and Granny) and to find a way to return home. But as Louisiana's life becomes entwined with the lives of the people of Richford, Georgia--including a surly motel owner, a walrus-like minister, and a mysterious boy with a crow on his shoulder--she starts to worry that she is destined only for good-byes. (Which could be due to the curse on Louisiana's and Granny's heads. But that is a story for another time.)

Called "one of DiCamillo's most singular and arresting creations" by the New York Times Book Review, the heartbreakingly irresistible Louisiana Elefante was introduced to readers in Raymie Nightingale, and now, with humor and tenderness, Kate DiCamillo returns to tell her story.

One of my favorite things about any Kate DiCamillo book is the voice. This holds true for Louisiana's Way Home as well. I read the book in a few sittings, and I couldn't help but feel the rhythm of the voice in my head each time I closed the book.

Louisiana is a smart girl with seriously difficult things going on in her life. Her courage and bright outlook make her a truly engaging character, and her heart, her vulnerability, and her thoughtfulness make her extremely lovable.

The story takes place in the 1970s. As wonderful as cell phones and the Internet can be, I think their existence complicates modern day stories, and I wonder if that played into DiCamillo's decision when she chose the year her story would take place.

The story is funny and clever, and it has so many fun details. I think it would make a fabulous read-aloud book. I loved reading it, and I highly recommend it!

I've read many of DiCamillo's books. While I intended to read Raymie Nightingale when it came out, I never got to it. You know how our TBR lists grow and grow and grow--there are so many great books to read! Yay! Anyway, I'll definitely be reading Raymie Nightingale in the near future!

* * *

In 2015, I was able to meet Kate DiCamillo when she spoke at a local event! I posted this pic once before, but I'm positing it again because hello, my friend Lynn Brunelle and I met Kate DiCamillo! :)

I'm sure that moment was much more memorable for me than it was for Ms. DiCamillo, but that's okay. The important thing is that I managed to avoid any embarrassing fangirl behaviors, like tripping, being unable to talk, or being unable to stop talking. (Sorry, E. Lockhart.*) Also, I got her autograph!

*All I did was greet E. Lockhart with A LOT of enthusiasm, and she was very gracious about it--which makes me like her even more.

* * *

You can read many excellent reviews of Louisiana's Way Home here on the IndieBound page, but I'll share two of them now:

"DiCamillo builds a resilient and sympathetic character in Louisiana, and the juxtaposition of her down-to-earth observations with Granny's capriciousness tightens the narrative and allows for a good deal of humor... The overarching themes addressing forgiveness, love, friendship, acceptance, home, and family ("Perhaps what matters when all is said and done is not who puts us down but who picks us up") ring honest and true."
-The Horn Book (starred review)

"DiCamillo is able to address complex topics in an accessible and ultimately hopeful way. There is never sadness without comfort, fear without consolation. Louisiana's soul-searching is no exception and further solidifies DiCamillo's reputation as a skilled storyteller who trusts her readers to wrestle with hard things. A thoughtful and finely written story that earns its place among DiCamillo's other beloved books."
-School Library Journal (starred review)

How about you? Have you read Louisiana's Way Home? What author or authors would you love to meet? Also, what are you reading? Tell me, tell me!

Saturday, December 22, 2018


Thistle on his thirteenth birthday

I'm sitting beside Thistle as I write, something I've done regularly for the past twelve years. But this time is different. Thistle is fourteen, and we're soon going to have to say good-bye to him.

I'm writing through tears, but I'd rather do it now, when he's with me, toasty-warm and with his side rising and falling beneath the blanket. He's in his favorite place, at home on the couch, and he's lying on the *best* couch cushion. I feel like I need to write about him and to let the world know he was here.

The kids were twelve and nine when Thistle joined the family. He was reunited with his littermate Pepper, our other sweet dog, at the time. He fit in immediately.

My son and I brought him home, and we took him around the house, showing him all the places he could go. We both remember he seemed to smile when we encouraged him to jump onto a bed.

Thistle means so much to each of us. He's our buddy, a family member, my writing assistant,

a cookie lover, a sun worshiper, a book model,

a book eater, a bookend,

a pillow,

a camping companion,

a squirrel taunter, a cuddler,

and so much more. His sister Pepper was his best friend and partner in crime. His favorite activities: hanging out with the kids, taking walks (unless it was too wet or too cold),

chasing squirrels and birds,

eating chicken and hot dogs, curling up with someone on his couch, having his ears rubbed, and lying beside me while I write.

Good boy, Thistle. You'll be in my heart forever. Thank you for all you've given us and for making the world a sweeter place. I love you, and I'll miss you so.

* * *

I wrote that yesterday. Thistle has now moved on, and it hurts so much. I hope he's somewhere where he can run in the sun with his sister.

Thistle VanderMeer
November 22, 2004 - December 22, 2018

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Happy news!!!!

I signed with the incredible Jennie Kendrick at Red Fox Literary!!

Yay, yay, yay!!

I'm over-the-moon excited to get to work with Jennie, Karen Grencik, and the rest of the Red Fox team!

* * *

Thank you, Jennie, for believing in me and my writing!

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Picture Books that Emphasize Inclusion

Words matter. Art matters. Books for young people matter, and it's important for all kids to see themselves represented--and respectfully--in these books. Inclusion matters. It's empowering.

I want to share two fabulous picture books that emphasize inclusion.

The first, ONE FAMILY, is a book I posted about back in 2015. I still love it. I've given it to young family members and friends, and I've recommended it to friends (and random people at our local indie bookstore who maybe weren't looking for a recommendation but ended up buying it, so yay!).

written by George Shannon and illustrated by Blanca Gomez
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date: May 26,2015

Just as I did in 2015, I'll post the starred review in Kirkus that beautifully describes ONE FAMILY:

A playful counting book also acts as a celebration of family and human diversity.

Shannon's text is delivered in spare, rhythmic, lilting verse that begins with one and counts up to 10 as it presents different groupings of things and people in individual families, always emphasizing the unitary nature of each combination. "One is six. One line of laundry. One butterfly's legs. One family." Gomez's richly colored pictures clarify and expand on all that the text lists: For "six," a picture showing six members of a multigenerational family of color includes a line of laundry with six items hanging from it outside their windows, as well as the painting of a six-legged butterfly that a child in the family is creating. While text never directs the art to depict diverse individuals and family constellations, Gomez does just this in her illustrations. Interracial families are included, as are depictions of men with their arms around each other, and a Sikh man wearing a turban. This inclusive spirit supports the text's culminating assertion that "One is one and everyone. One earth. One world. One family."

A visually striking, engaging picture book that sends the message that everyone counts. (Picture book: 3-6)

The second book I want to spread the word about is ALL ARE WELCOME.

written by Alexandra Penfold and illustrated by Suzanne Kauffman
Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication date: July 10, 2018

I've been sharing ALL ARE WELCOME with kids and teachers, and I'm so happy the book exists. The book jacket has an adorable poster on the inside. My copy is hanging in a classroom this very minute!

I love it! Look at that adorable, diverse group of children, all holding hands! Suzanne Kauffman's art is spectacular!

Here's the book description I found on the IndieBound website:

A warm, welcoming picture book that celebrates diversity and gives encouragement and support to all kids.

Follow a group of children through a day in their school, where everyone is welcomed with open arms. A school where kids in patkas, hijabs, and yarmulkes play side-by-side with friends in baseball caps. A school where students grow and learn from each other's traditions and the whole community gathers to celebrate Lunar New Year.

ALL ARE WELCOME lets young children know that no matter what, they have a place, they have a space, they are welcome in their school.

ALL ARE WELCOME is a New York Times bestseller, and it also earned a starred review from Kirkus.

In this photo of Thistle curling up with both books, you can see the beautiful cover that's underneath the jacket (that doubles as a poster) of ALL ARE WELCOME.

Have you read ONE FAMILY and/or ALL ARE WELCOME? Can you recommend any other picture books that emphasize inclusion?

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Amsterdam! Part II!

When my family and I traveled to New York and London, we started each trip with a "hop-on, hop-off" bus tour. That allowed us to get a broad picture of the places we were visiting. Amsterdam offered "hop-on, hop-off" canal cruises, so my son and I took one! It was such a fun and unique way to start sightseeing in the Netherlands!

That afternoon, we went to the Anne Frank House and were able to go through the hinged bookcase and move around in the space where the Franks and the others stayed for more than two years during World War II. It's awful to think about having to hide in there for so long--with everything at stake--and then being captured. Anne died in a concentration camp two months before Holland was liberated. It's incredibly tragic.

With so many visitors walking through those rooms each day and reflecting on the terribleness of it all, I hope people learn from it. We left there with heavy hearts.

The next day, we were off on lighter adventures.

We toured a wooden shoe factory.

In the Netherlands, even the cows wear wooden shoes.

Okay, I was just messing with you. Did you believe me? Even for a second??

We went to Marken, a quaint and beautiful seaside village,

and hopped on a ferry that took us to a fishing village, Voldendam.

There we toured a cheese factory

before eating in a pub that had super-delicious fish and chips.

Our next stop was Zaanse Schans, a place with real, working windmills!

The windmill we toured made peanut oil.

I loved the way the natural light seeped through the windows.

Another highlight of the trip was a meal at Upstairs Pannenkoekenhuis where I had THE BEST PANCAKES EVER. Seriously, bloggy friends: amazing!

I took this pic looking down the steep stairs that led up to the restaurant.

My pancake! Oh. Em. Gee.

Photos of the Dutch royal family hung on the walls,

and teapots hung from the ceiling.

Click here for a video I found online that captures the charm of the place! There are only four tables and the restaurant is extremely popular, so make a reservation if you plan to go. Call one week in advance, if you can. It's a sweet place and definitely worth scheduling into your itinerary.

Johannes Vermeer was from Delft, so I was eager to visit that area. While there, we toured the Royal Delft factory.

This artist was painting a Royal Delft tulip vase.

I enjoyed looking at the ornate details inside the factory. Some of the walls were gorgeous.

This is a picture of Rembrandt's The Night Watch that artists recreated in Royal Delft tiles!

I bought this souvenir!

A car painted like Royal Delft pottery was parked outside!

Click here for some fun facts about Delftware.

More highlights from our trip:

Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earring is inside this museum!

Mauritsuis, The Hague

Eeeeee! It was such a moving experience, seeing it! I bought a refrigerator magnet in the museum gift shop to remind myself that I have really been inches from the actual painting! (Not like I'd forget, right?!) 


statue of Willem of Orange - The Hague

Imagine Peace Wish Tree - Peace Palace, The Hague

The Hague

looking up in Amsterdam

Our trip was at the end of August, and it already feels far away! Thank goodness for small souvenirs and, best of all, big memories with my son! 

On our last night in the Netherlands,

I bought these wooden tulips.

I keep them in a jelly-jar vase a family friend gave me. She'd found it on a beach and liked it because it had dead barnacles stuck to it. 

Maybe someday I'll find a tulip vase from Delft that I can buy. Or maybe not. Maybe keeping a little bit of Holland inside something found on the edge of the Salish Sea--my son's and my home--is perfect.